“I recall sitting on the shores of Loch Indaal with him in 1999, looking across to Bruichladdich, then closed. “I’d love for that distillery to reopen,” he said. “It’s a disgrace that it’s closed.” It hurt him as a whisky man and as an Ileach. Now it’s one of the largest employers on Islay, forging new links with farmers, utilising Islay’s flora to infuse its Botanist gin. He has helped to recalibrate the notion of what a distillery can do and has challenged conventional thinking by being brave enough to ask, “what is this thing called whisky?” His answer: “It is exciting it is challenging, it is poetic, it is a distillation of place and people.” On his 50th anniversary he wrote, “I’ll continue working on a dream, chasing single malt rainbows in search of the perfect dram.”
The birth of the idea for an Islay gin was protracted. Innovation has been central to “Laddie” philosophy ever since the distillery re-opened early in the millennium but the concept of distilling a gin at an Islay single malt whisky distillery was challenging convention to put it mildly. One of the key factors in its success was Jim’s deep understanding of distillation techniques, and how radically different they would need to be.
Another was Jim’s ongoing consultation with Islay-based botanists Richard and Mavis Gulliver who have a profound understanding of ourlocal natural environment and flora.
The Botanist is the unprecedented result of a unique Islay distiller’s know-how combining with a suite of locally foraged botanicals assembled after a great deal of work and meticulous study. It is one of Jim’s proudest achievements.